April is the Cruelest Month

For all of us in the midst of the academic year, April is the toughest month. The weather, especially after a winter filled with darkness, cold and gray skies, beckons us outside. Color returns to our world as trees and flowers bloom and grass greens and thickens. The sunshine warms us as we scurry to class. The temptation to just skip class or to hold class outside is strong.

image from: www.indiana.edu

We put off our grading; walk into class just a little less prepared than usual. It’s finally spring and we know there are only a few weeks left of the academic year.

But…those weeks! Final exams, end-of-year projects and presentations. Not just the end of the semester, but the end of the year. Our committee work ramps up to an almost frenzied pace. We also have lots of senior events and senior projects to see through. If we are swamped, imagine how our students are doing!

For our students, this period of the academic year can overwhelm even the most diligent. The spring weather conspires with the pressures of finding a summer job (or an actual job for those graduating seniors) to squeeze study into a smaller-than-usual space. How can we help our students remain focused on class work?

Take a little bit of time at the beginning of class to talk with your students about April. Suggest a few strategies for dealing with spring fever.

1. The irresistable urge to be outside. Consider a short homework or class preparation assignment that requires students to get outside. They could take a photo and write a short paragraph. Or observe something outside and write a short piece describing, or relating it to something in the course material.

2. The urge for social contact. Incorporate more small group work in April. Maybe a collaborative quiz or a concept map to help students review material or reinforce concepts.

3. Bring food to class to enliven a class discussion. Pineapple, strawberries, bright colors. Or see if students want to submit food/snack ideas that reflect a class concept or theme.

4. Incorporate out-of-class group work. This works better with pairs of students because they are so busy it’s hard for them to get together outside of class.

5. Spend a little more time at the beginning of class reviewing the previous session. Make the review interactive by asking questions, rather than just listing or summing up.

Your students will probably need a pep-talk or two to help them stay focused and motivated during April!